One of my favorite ‘fitness industry’ memes reads:
If your Personal Trainer is constantly trying to sell you supplements, you don’t have a Personal Trainer. You have a used car salesman wearing Under Armor.
And I 100% agree. I’ve seen so many trainers sell truck loads of unnecessary supplements to their clients. Protein powders, energy drinks, BCAAs, I’ve even seen people selling Water supplements.
WATER supplements. What in the world does that even mean?! You need to drink more water? Fill a cup!
Let’s take a few moments and go through some of the most popular supplements and discuss whether or not you need to spend your hard earned money on them.
Protein Powder and Energy Drinks are massively popular (and massively misused) supplements. I have used protein shakes in the past. I always target the most affordable brands with the largest amount of grams per scoop and least amount of sugar. But do you need to use protein powder? It depends.
Are you bulking for a competition and want to go way above the recommended daily serving of 0.6 grams/pound of body weight? Then Yes. Go for it.
Are you crunched on time and not fitting a well balanced nutrition plan into your daily routine? Then maybe.
But, if you’re eating a balanced diet of lean proteins with every meal? Then no.
Protein Powder is a valid supplement in that you will actually get more protein in your diet, though much of it will work through your body and end up in the toilet. However, it is not necessary if you are able to reach your daily servings through breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The best way to get protein (and all nutrients) is through the food you consume every day. If you meal prep, create a routine that works for you, or work with a Nutrition Expert, you don’t need to include protein shakes in your diet.
Creatine is a supplement that helps your muscles absorb and retain more water, making them look larger and more full. I’ve used creatine in the past but not for several years. Below is an example of my physique without Protein Powder and Creatine (left) and with them (right).
Creatine is a valid supplement. It will help you look larger and retain more water. But, it is likely not something you need to include in your diet. Unless you have very specific aesthetic or performance goals that require extra size or water retention, you don’t have to spend the extra cash on Creatine. Again, the best answer to improved performance and appearance is a well balanced diet that you can maintain consistently and a strength training routine that keeps you active and progressively overloads your muscles to help them grow.
Here we go. Energy drinks are a multi-billion dollar industry and, in my opinion, a plague on society. Most of these drinks, especially the ones with celebrity endorsements use a practice called ‘micro-dosing’. That means, while they claim to offer every vitamin and nutrient you need to feel energized throughout your day, the amount of each is so low that it is extremely unlikely to make any difference in your daily performance.
The companies producing these drinks often spend way more money and energy on marketing their product than actually making them effective.
The best way to get increased, sustainable energy is through consistent exercised, a balanced diet, meeting your daily calorie and water goals, and getting six to eight hours of sleep every night. Water and black coffee are naturally ways to add a little pep in your step, but you can 100% skip energy drinks.
EVERYTHING ELSE (BCAAs, GREEN POWDERS, FAT BURNERS, ETC)
Let me say it again. SKIP!
BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids) and Green Powders (powders that claim to delivery a daily requirement of the nutrients in green leafy vegetables) are completely unnecessary. Everything these supplements promise can be found in a basic nutrition plan. They also fall into the ‘micro-dosing’ trap as energy drinks, rarely providing anything close to the daily requirement of vitamins and nutrients, but often at a very high price point. These can definitely be avoided.
Regarding fat burners, stay far far away. The typical fat burner is a mix of caffeine and sugar that will speed up your heart (often to a dangerous degree) and put unnecessary strain on your vital organs.
Say it with me now. The best (and most affordable) way to reach your fitness goals is consistency. Creating a routine of daily exercise, healthy, nutritious meals, and lots of water and sleep is the road map to a healthy lifestyle. Save your money, save your time, avoid supplements unless prescribed by a doctor or Registered Dietician.